As a mom, I’m interested in saving money wherever I can. I like to think that I’m pretty mindful about my money and watching where it goes. So I was pretty shocked when I learned that I might unknowingly be throwing away the financial equivalent of my annual car insurance bill! Studies show that most Americans waste about half of their food, which translates to about $2,265 a year per household, or $165 billion nationwide. That’s the bad news. The good news is that with a little (and I stress a little because who wants to spend endless hours doing this?) planning and organizing, you can save a lot of money and wasted food. Here’s the plan to get you organized and richer.
First things first. Before you can organize your fridge and bring in anything new, you have to get rid of all of the old things. Look at all of the food in your fridge and check the “best by” and “sell by” dates. Throw everything away that is past its expiration date. Then, move on to your condiments. These, along with any food in your freezer, should be thrown out if they’re over a year old.
Your next job is to use up all of the food in your fridge. This is known as “shopping your fridge.” Make as many meals (purchasing what little you need) as you possibly can with what you have inside your fridge (that includes your freezer). Try looking up recipes online and planning for the week.
Next step is to organize. Where you put things in your refrigerator will determine:
1. If you’ll eat it
2. If it will spoil quickly.
Let’s tackle #2 first.
Different areas of the fridge have different temperatures. Things tend to be colder toward the bottom. It’s important to place things in their proper temperature zone to keep them tasting their best and lasting the longest.
- On the door. The warmest area in the fridge. This is the place for condiments and butter.
- On the top shelf. Since it’s the second warmest area in the fridge it’s the perfect place for soft drinks, yogurt, leftovers, cheese, and deli meats.
- On the middle shelf. This is the moderate zone; eggs and milk should go here.
- On the bottom shelf. Since this area is the coldest, this is where meat and seafood should go. Place them in the back where it stays evenly cold.
- In the drawers. When placing items in drawers it’s important to keep fruits and veggies separated. Keep fruits in the lowest humidity drawer–sometimes called the “crisper”–and keep the vent open. Vegetables should go in the highest humidity drawer with the vent closed to keep the moisture in.
As you place your food in areas of the fridge that are the most appropriate temperature, it’s now important to organize them in those areas, so you’ll see and use them. Here are some tips for doing that:
- Make sure when you buy new food that you rotate the old food forward, to the front, and place the new stuff to the back.
- Write the date on partially eaten food or leftovers so that you know how long they’re good for. The Mayo Clinic suggests not eating anything that’s older than 3-4 days.
- When you buy things in bulk, divide the food into resealable plastic bags according to the serving size and freeze them. This will make the food easy to thaw and use.
- Put the things that you use the most in the easiest-to-reach places.
- Place taller things in the back and shorter ones in the front so you see what you have.
- Use plastic, glass, or clear plastic bags to store leftovers and extra food so you see everything that you have.
- Wash and cut fruit and veggies just before using, not prior to storage.